Corporal punishment may not leave physical marks on a child’s body, rather a life-time scar is punctured into his emotional being that colours his behavioural patterns throughout adolescence, adulthood, parenthood and every other road that he walks.
As a teacher myself, I have seen the effects of this form of disciplinary action on young children. Beyond the initial, severe trauma that is painfully imprinted on the child’s psychological being, there is the damage to his self-esteem. Subdued by fear, his survival lies in resorting to lies, defiance and destructive attitudes, and in some cases, bullying.
He seeks attention and does whatever it takes to attract it. At home, parents complain of bad behaviour and at school, he is hauled before the dean. In reality, the young child suffers from parental neglect, love and acceptance, and craves for a helping hand. Usually, the long rod or belt that reaches him provides temporary relief and he yearns for more.
The recently showcased and publicised beating of a misguided child should make us all take stock of our attitudes towards violence in society, be it at home or school, under the guise of discipline. Little do we realise that such a child could morph into a spouse- beater or even a full-fledged criminal. This is where the spiralling violent crime rate in our country begins: in the home/school where children are treated like criminals.
Are we prepared to laud and approve this public display of “licks” in the media? I dare say the lead culprit here is the parent. Deviant behaviour takes root in the home. Children live what they learn as they follow the example set before them by their parents. The lack of involvement in a child’s life, the poor role models that parents are, their failure to spend time with them, to get into their heads and secure a firm foundation of good character and values in them all create the child we see today. Even the house built becomes merely a shell for a home.
Even the bullying problem at schools stems from the child’s immediate environment—the home—which is quite often a war zone. Here, parents bully children, siblings bully each other and parents fight each other.
Punishment should be rehabilitative rather than punitive. To merely punish a child for wrong-doings or to shift the blame of embarrassment from parent to child certainly does very little to rehabilitate anyone. Admonish the child by all means, but the child’s development must be top priority.
It was the learned scholar Chanakya who advised parents that a child up to five years must be showered with love; from five to 12 years, he should be guided and corrected; and beyond this age, he must be a friend to his parents,
in whom he can find a “reference point”, source of comfort, solace and communication.
Parents today need to take their roles seriously, for they are their children’s first teachers, first gods upon earth and the foundation blocks in the construction of a society that is representative of law and order. The responsibility of guiding their children must be skilfully done with empathy and wisdom. Such a duty is a labour of love.
No Facebook, smartphone or other device of this digi-world should hold greater influence over our children’s lives than parents. If this is true, then parents, you must quickly revisit the quality of your parenting style before you lose your dearest possession,
The school, the place of worship, the priest, the village, the politician, friends and all other institutions do contribute to a child’s growth and development. I must reiterate, however, that enough cannot be said about the sacred thrust of parents regarding their role in a child’s life. Like a tiny bird in your hand, he cannot be squeezed tightly nor can he be held very loosely.
From conception, to the cradle and to the grave, it is the parents’ foundations that keep their children’s homes from crumbling. Please honour your responsibility.
Paramacharya Pt Hardeo Persad
Spiritual Head, Swaha